Transforming The Symbol Of The “Swastika”: A Bright Lotus Flower Grows Out Of The Dark Muddy Swamp Of History
Serving in temples in the United States for more than 25 years as a Japanese Buddhist priest, and working with the Interfaith Center of New York for over 10 years, I am aware of the painful memories that the swastika symbol represents in the West where it is seen by many as a symbol of the hate and genocide perpetuated by the Nazis. However, the swastika has also been an important ancient holy symbol of happiness, well-being, and good luck for Buddhists, Hindus, Jain and others for more than 2000 years.
The object of this demonstration project is to provide accurate facts on the swastika symbol from different religious and cultural views. Chapter 1 deals with the present and historical usage of the swastika in the Eastern religions and cultures such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, as well as the swastika in other world traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Native American Indians. The meaning and usage of the swastika symbol was completely changed from good to evil in Europe because of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic genocide during the Holocaust. Therefore, chapter 2 deals with the question of how Hitler adopted the swastika for his propaganda. The usage of the swastika in Mein Kampf is discussed in detail, to clarify Hitler’s intentions for the symbol, and to show that Hitler did not use the word swastika, a common word in German, but intentionally used the word “Hakenkreuz”(Hook-Cross). My discussion then focuses on the two basic intended meanings of the Hook-Cross symbol by Hitler. His first intention, the ‘Aryan’ Hook-Cross is discussed in terms of Max Muller’s contribution to the idea of “Aryan.” His second intention, the ‘Anti-Semitic’ Hook-Cross, is discussed in the context of the influences of Martin Luther and Richard Wagner. These discussions lead to the conclusion that Hitler’s Hook-Cross was a new German Christian ‘cross’ of Nazi Germany, and should not be confused with the Eastern swastika.
Chapter 3 is a summary of reports from swastika workshops conducted in New York. The first is a report from a lecture-style presentation. The second is a report from a workshop with Buddhists in New York. The third is a half-day workshop in an interfaith setting. Chapter 4, the conclusion of my project offers future possibilities for mutual understanding of the symbol in the East and West. The epilogue is a proposed statement—including an explanation of the different uses of the swastika—that I will send to various museums in the West and Eastern religious organizations after the completion of this thesis. It is my understanding that mutual understanding and mutual recognition are essential for our future inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
- 2020-03-12 18:49:22
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